2 minute read

Joe Frazier

South Carolina Childhood

Joseph William Frazier, or "Billy Boy" as he was called during his childhood, was born on January 12, 1944 in Beaufort, South Carolina. His parents, Rubin and Dolly Frazier, worked as farm laborers and raised their twelve surviving children in the rural hamlet of Laurel Bay. Part of the Gullah community of South Carolina, Frazier's family was part of extended kinship network of the descendants of former slaves. The mutual support of the community's residents helped Frazier build his self-esteem despite the poverty and racism that he experienced in the rural South. His status as his father's favorite in the family also helped Frazier to have a happy childhood. Frazier was often at his father's side helping him manufacture and distribute illegal moonshine; the elder Frazier had lost one of his arms in a lover's quarrel some years before.

Frazier dropped out of school in the tenth grade and began to work on a nearby farm as a laborer. After he spoke out against the beating of a fellow worker by the farm's owner, Frazier came under threat himself. He was fired from his job and felt compelled to leave the region altogether. After saving enough money for a Greyhound Bus ticket, Frazier joined his older brother, Tommy, in New York City in 1959. Unable to find steady work, Frazier sometimes resorted to stealing cars to make some money. He subsequently moved to Philadelphia, where some of his relatives lived, and found employment at the Cross Brothers kosher slaughterhouse. Although he was regularly cheated out of his wages by the company, Frazier worked in the meat packing plant from 1961 to 1963. He sent part of his wages back home to support the children he had with two of his girlfriends, Florence Smith and a woman he later identified only as "Rosetta." He had two children with Rosetta in the early 1960s, but married Smith in September 1963. The couple divorced in 1985 after raising seven children together.


1944 Born January 12 in Beaufort, South Carolina, to Rubin and Dolly Frazier
1961 Begins training as a boxer
1962 Wins Philadelphia Golden Gloves novice heavyweight championship
1962 Wins first of three Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight championship bouts
1963 Marries Florence Smith
1964 Wins Gold Medal in heavyweight boxing at Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan
1965 Begins professional boxing career
1968 Wins New York State heavyweight boxing title
1970 Wins World Boxing Association heavyweight boxing title
1971 Defends heavyweight title against Muhammad Ali
1973 Loses heavyweight title to George Foreman
1975 Fails to regain heavyweight title against Muhammad Ali
1976 Retires from professional boxing
1990 Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame
1996 Publishes autobiography, Smokin' Joe

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsBoxingJoe Frazier Biography - South Carolina Childhood, Chronology, Olympic Gold Medalist, Monumental Fights Against Ali And Foreman, Awards And Accomplishments - SELECTED WRITINGS BY FRAZIER: